Photo Blog 2013
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Disassembling Mamiya RZ67 Polaroid back for cleaning - 13 April 2013 [ prev ]

I bought a Polaroid back for my RZ67, but it arrived filthy. At some point in the past it seems that a Polaroid had leaked chemicals, and no one ever tried to clean it. So, I spent two hours cleaning it and figuring out how to take it apart, and thought I would pass it on. Perhaps this is also useful for other brands of medium format Polaroid back:

Here is the back:

Open the locking flap:

Open the back (I tipped it down on its back here to get a better look at the roller assembly):

Lift up the centre of the roller assembly, being careful to disengage the plastic lock:

Here is the assembly:

On the side are two metal guides. Carefully push back the plastic inside the loop, and pull back the metal bracket:

Then pull it out completely, and the one on the other side too:

At this point the rollers and two small plastic pieces can fall out, but I held them in. Here is a look at the black plastic end, which just slides out at this point:

Here I have slid the white end out, and you can see how the rollers sit in it. The one roller is only half surrounded by the white plastic bit. The metal bracket closes the other side:

Here is the entire assembly broken down:

Except that there is a plastic flap, which can be removed by pushing together the two plastic tabs in the centre, seen here from above, with the spring there as well. I didn't find it necessary to pull it out to clean it, and it looks fragile, but it can be removed.

Before I put it back together, I used a very tiny little bit of silicon lube on the roller ends.

Removing optics from the Vivitar 2x TC for Macro Use - 12 January 2013 [ prev | next ]

Here is a summary of what I did to fix my Vivitar 2x Macro-TC, from memory:

First I removed the rear mount. This is necessary to remove the last element (closest to the front) without breaking it. The mount turns out to be tricky to reassemble if you have the Nikon version and want to retain aperture lever functionality, so make sure to peek in to see how all the little levers are positioned. You can reassemble it by trial and error, I know from experience :)

Then there are several retaining/spacer rings and elements starting at the back, interleaved. You will need a spanner like this or similar:


A suction cup tool would be helpful for getting out the elements, which don't all just fall out that easily. I actually bought one of these and forget about it, making do without. I am great at making my own life unnecessarily difficult.

Lens Sucker

At this point it looked like this and I was stuck for a while.

Now the only elements which are left are at the very tip, and are held in with an external retaining ring without a spanner slot. To get that off, you need two flexiclamps to grab the ring and the tube just below the ring, sizes 25.4mm and 28.6mm, respectively:

Flexi Clamp

The ring was incredibly stiff, and some penetrating oil might help. I used thick leather gloves and pushed down hard against a scrap piece of wood to get some leverage, but eventually it came off.

Having done that, and with a bit of fiddling, thinking, and three assembly tries, I was able to get it back together in such a way that AI works, stopping down on the camera body works, and aperture readout (manual for Nikkor-compatible lenses) works. This all only worked because I didn't cut anything related, and kept all the prongs in place. I do have to use my ZF.2 lenses in manual mode for this to work, i.e. there is no electronic communication for G lenses.

I can use both my ZF.2 50MP and 100MP with this, but my ZF.2 35/1.4 cannot focus anywhere when on the adapter. With the 50MP I can get about 3x magnification, but am very close to the subject. With the 100MP I get less, but retain more working distance.

Michael Lange: Wald - Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung - 15 November 2012 [ prev | next ]

I believe I first came across these photos in a local photo magazine, and then again on the European Month of Photography webpage, and I immediately knew I wanted to see them in person.

The prints are very large, and I am quite confident that they are digital. The level of detail is fantastic, so I am guessing that they might have been made with a medium format digital camera, which would be supported by the vertical trees, which can be achieved with shift lenses, more common with medium format. There is also the possibility that they have been stitched, but if so, they have been done very well, with no visible artifacts that I could see.

Many had motion blurring in them, some just a little, others as a distinct element of the composition, and this again lends credence to the guess that they have been captured by a digital medium format camera.

I was less keen on the colours, although it is difficult to determine if this was by intent, or caused by the camera/lens combination delivering relatively little detail in the midtones. I felt that my D800 with Zeiss lenses would have delivered more pleasing tonality and microcontrast, but perhaps that is only my taste, or the chosen processing. In general I liked the look very much, it was only this muddiness in the midtones which disappointed me.

Most of the shots were probably done with a relatively wide angle lens, perhaps 24mm or so, but with a very relaxed, natural perspective. A few shots were possibly done with a normal or short tele lens, mostly the shots dense with foliage and branches.

In general, apart from the dusk/dawn times of the captures, and very subdued lighting, many of these photos were very similar to some of my work, although at a somewhat higher standard at this time. With time, I hope to pass the level of these shots, which I think is not unrealistic, as long as I keep at it and pay careful attention to detail.

As for the compositions, a few I didn't care for, and I found neither obvious subject, nor sufficiently general interest. Others I liked, but not excessively so, but several I found absolutely fantastic, and I would have loved to buy a print, had the prices not been out of my price range by about an extra zero. Some of the smaller prints were more affordable, but this work really needs to be experienced large.

I did buy the book, in the end, and even briefly considered buying the special edition of the book, which comes with a print, but again, I am not a real collector yet, and the price was a bit high for me.

For anyone with a passion for forests, I can highly recommend this exhibition, which runs until the 23rd of December. I might even go myself again to take another, closer look: Michael Lange.

Helmut Newton / idylle+desaster - Museum der Fotografie - 15 November 2012 [ prev | next ]

This was a combination exhibition, consisting of the usual Helmut Newton exhibition, a changing Helmut Newton exhibition, and an exhibition put on as part of the European Month of Photography, with photos taken from the private collection of someone who doesn't make photos himself.

I have to admit that in spite of my continuing attempts to appreciate his work, it always leaving me thinking that he is a capable photographer, but otherwise completely untouched. I am just not interested in the provocations of the rich, and Newton's fascination with various models. The photo on show I liked the most was not even by him, but of him. My apologies for it being shaken, I was being stalked by a humourless guard, and had to squeeze it in quickly while he was just around the corner.

idylle+desaster was somewhat interesting, but quite mixed. As the title hints, a number of the photos were sorted by various kinds of disasters, such as fires, earthquakes, and so on, and the rest were more usual. It was an interesting exhibition, even if it ultimately didn't really touch me in a way which would cause changes to my own photography.

Bettina Rheims - Camera Work - 7 November 2012 [ prev | next ]

This Camera Work exhibition just fell flat on its face for me. I generally quite like Bettina Rheims' work, but the androgeny theme in this one is just completely uninteresting to me, and I found the style too generic and documentary. There was maybe one or two photos here which I enjoyed, no more. I even managed to mess up the documentary shot I made of the exhibition, and didn't check on location.

Elliott Erwitt - Camera Work - 10 October 2012 [ prev | next ]

Elliott Erwitt is one of my favorite photographers, without quite making it onto my list of my most inspirational photographers. I always enjoy seeing his work, and when he was recently on display at Camera Work, I made a point of going. The show was right on target, with both well-known favorites to bring a smile on your face, as well as some really great work I wasn't aware of. If there is ever a larger exhibition of his work within striking distance, I will certainly go. That last portrait is of Henri Cartier-Bresson, by the way. I would absolutely love to own an A3 copy of the second shot, but I am certain I can't afford it.

Romney Müller-Westernhagen - Camera Work - 24 August 2012 [ prev | next ]

This photographer is not someone I knew of, having perhaps heard the name somewhere, no more. I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of the portraits on show at Camera Work, and would gladly view more, or even pick up a book to browse through.

Testing the Nikon D800's AF points - 28 July 2012 [ prev | next ]

Today I repeated the tripod test on the 1542T, this time stopped down to f/5.6 for better sharpness, and reached the same conclusion. The little tripod is stable enough with the shutter delay. I ended up using this setup for a photo tour at Tempelhof, and all shots were sharp.

Later in the day, I put the 70-200 on the 1542T and checked my focus points. It seems that both left and right AF points are capable of getting sharp shots with the zoom wide open, although they didn't focus perfectly every time. I guess that means that I don't have the AF point misalignment problem, although I was a bit surprised that it didn't grab focus every time, possibly an issue with the wood texture I was using to AF on. Anyway, I mostly use manual focus lenses, so I guess I will stop testing for now. If I add a faster AF lens at some point, I will retest. f/2.8 may not be enough to see if the AF points are out, but that is all I have for AF lenses; my fast lenses are all manual focus.

The Nikon D800 with Gitzo GT1542T and GT3542XLS - 27 July 2012 [ prev | next ]

I have both the Gitzo GT1542T and the GT3542XLS, so when my 36MP Nikon D800 arrived, I needed to test everything together to find the new limits.

I mounted the 70-200/2.8VRII with TC14E-II, and set it to 280mm @ f/4, focused on a building across the street, and shot with both tripods, always 5 identical shots in each sequence to prevent outliers from affecting the conclusion. I focused manually by live view, and shot without VR. I shot first with no shutter delay, and then with a 3s shutter delay. The ballheads are the Burzynski Ball Head II inserted into the 3542XLS in place of the usual plate, and the Markins Q3T for the 1542T. The centre post was down for the 1542T. I need to test with the post up as well, although I rarely use it like that.

With no shutter delay, both tripods deliver slightly soft shots, but the 1542 shots are somewhat softer. With a 3s shutter delay, both tripods delivered sharp results, indistinguishable from each other. It is likely, that with a less extreme focal length, the 3542XLS could deliver sharp shots even without shutter delay, but once you take the trouble to put the camera on a tripod, enabling the shutter delay is trivial.

As a result, I will use my 1542T most of the time, and always use the shutter delay. I am sure the 3542XLS will beat the 1542T when there is a bit of wind or vibration, but I currently mostly shoot urbex indoors, so these factors do not come into play.

Diane Arbus - Martin-Gropius-Bau - 14 July 2012 [ prev | next ]

Diane Arbus is a name which is perhaps still somewhat controversial. Her treatment of mentally ill patients and her premature death by suicide will probably always keep it that way. Photography was not allowed at the exhibition, like always at Martin-Gropius-Bau. At the entrance to the Arbus exhibition, there was a brief outline of her life, and then directly underneath that, it said that no attempt had been made to order the photos in any way. Given that even a chronolocial order is helpful, I find this bizarre. There is so much scope for a talented curator to do something here, but maybe they don't have one.

The exhibition itself was quite good, and had many interesting photos, but there was also a fair amount of fluff, leading quickly to a feeling of fatigue with looking at so many photos, trying to see something in each. I recall that the same thing happened to me when MGB had a retrospective of Henri Cartier-Bresson's work, where there was just much too much to be able to absorb. It seems to be fairly specific to the curator's here that they love to present an avalanche of material, but don't like to organize it well. Less, done better, would be highly preferable.

Nonetheless, I was happy to have gone, and to have seen many of the photos I have known for so long, and to have had the opportunity to read some of her thoughts, especially on her photos of the mentally retarded, which I have very mixed feelings about personally.

Ralph Gibson - Camera Work - 6 July 2012 [ prev | next ]

The following exhibition, however, I found much more to my taste. Although I like tasteful nudes, I have to admit that it isn't really the mainstream of my photographic taste, but Gibson mixed in enough mood to make them quite enjoyable. I really like his use of B&W film.

Anton Corbijn - Camera Work - 9 May 2012 [ prev | next ]

I am a big fan of Anton Corbijn (or at least some of his work), and own a copy of his Miles Davis poster, which has always hung on the wall in a preferred spot. When Camera Work put on a show of his work, I was thrilled, and looked forward to going there very much. Unfortunately, the selection just didn't speak to me, with very few shots exiciting me (among which was this Tom Waits portrait), so I won't say any more about this show.

Arnold Newman and Bruce Davidson - C|O Berlin - 29 April 2012 [ prev | next ]

On one of my unfocused photo walks, I strolled by C|O Berlin and decided to have a look. It turns out that Arnold Newman and Bruce Davidson were exhibiting, so I bought a ticket and went in. Great show! The two photographers are obviously very different, one working primarily in the studio and controlled situations, and the other being a street photographer, but somehow they exhibited well next to each other.

This photo shows the top, back room where Bruce Davidson's photos were. There was also a movie playing on the left abo

ut his Subway work in NYC, which I did end up watching. Very interesting.

Robert Polidori - Camera Work Contemporary - 25 February 2012 [ prev | next ]

In late February, Camera Work opened a new gallery in the former Jewish Girls School in Auguststraße, and Robert Polidori was chosen as the first exhibition. I happen to love Polidori's work, and even got to meet him on another occasion in Camera Work in Charlottenburg, so I was very happy to get another chance to see his beautiful photos, especially those from Cuba, which have me wanting to visit Havana desperately.

The exhibition space is very large, encompassing a very long hallway and several smaller rooms, but rather than crowding in too many photos, as is common at the Martin-Gropius-Bau photo exhibitions, the spacing remained relaxed, and it was a real pleasure to view them here. Very few people were in attendance, for reasons I could not guess, which made it all the more enjoyable.

In addition to Polidori's work, there was a minor exhibition of some younger, up and coming artists (not photography), which I took the time to view as well. It was refreshing and interesting, but honestly, most of it I found slightly bizarre. Note the streetlight on top of the shoe...

A few of the pieces I did really enjoy, however.

Regardless of what I actually thought of each piece of art, it is always great to see something different, and I applaud Camera Work for giving these artists a chance to exhibit. And all the while my progress was being watched by this gentleman...

Hollywood In Style - The Kennedys - 19 February 2012 [ prev | next ]

On the 19th of February, I returned to The Kennedys to see the Hollywood In Style exhibition. This time I was not sent an invitation; I suppose my 15 minutes of fame have been spent, frivolously no doubt.

As was the case the previous time I was here, one large wall held most of the photos, with an opposing wall holding a few more. The rest of the museum remains dedicated to the life of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his family. While this is an obvious arrangement, when one considers the location, I cannot help but feel that it may not yield the strongest results...

In any case, the three dozen photos or so which were there were interesting. There was a mix of older and newer photos, with a few very good shots. One particular Hitchcock shot comes to mind. This time, however, I didn't feel that there were any spectacularly good work, just a whole lot of fairly uniformly good work, and some less interesting shots, and as a result (and possibly partly due to the excellent Camera Work Hollywood shots I saw just days before), I left feeling slightly hungry for more. I went over the exhibition twice, but would have liked a little more depth and variety.

I have just found out that The Kennedys is owned by Camera Work, and therefore it ought to be within the realm of the possible that the museum expand the wallspace dedicated to photography exhibitions somewhat, which I imagine could help both the photo exhibitions and The Kennedys museum itself.

Pedro Silmon's Blog.

On an unrelated note, I am realizing that the little 6x6 application I use on my iPhone to make these shots is just too contrasty for this application. I will have to revert to Hipstamatic or some other, less harsh, photography app, to allow seeing more details. I should probably also pay more attention to getting several good shots of the exhibition, not just a single overview.

Mark Laita - Camera Work - 8 February 2012 [ prev | next ]

On February the 8th, I went to see the Mark Laita exhibition at Camera Work, near where I work. I try to go to all their exhibitions, with a few unfortunate and even fewer deliberate omissions, since the quality of their exhibitions is so high, and they are often the only chance I get to see some well-known photos in person.

In the case of Mark Laita, I had never heard of him before, and the poster didn't look incredibly interesting, being an extremely colourful snake arranged in an unnatural way, and I suspected trickery with both colour and composition. In the end, I couldn't have been more wrong, and I am very glad I went. It appears that the animals he photographs are very much the colour he presents, and the arrangement is done very carefully with live snakes. Only the dead birds didn't excite me at all. They are very beautiful, but knowing that they are dead, the excitement is missing.

Although the snake photos were generally fantastic, and in my opinion more interesting than the fish photos, my favorite photo of the exhibition was of an octopus, just a fantastic shot, pose and colour. The particular copy is massive, perhaps 2m long, and way out of my price range, but I would love to own a more modest version of this one day.

On the second floor, there was a Hollywood retrospective, with lots of very famous shots by well known and less well known photographers, which I also really enjoyed.

leica@fashionweek - Sandra Freij and Robert Wyatt - recomBERLIN - 20 January 2012 [ prev | next ]

In another surprise invitation, I was sent (by snailmail, no less) an invitation to the exhibition Loon, with work by photographers Sandra Freij and Robert Wyatt, and sponsored by Leica. This exhibition was the third installation of the leica@fashionweek series, and took place at recomBERLIN. Sandra and Robert (working separately) were given access to the relatively new Leica S2, in a combined support of the arts/promotion of the system action.

I have to admit right up front that I am generally not a fan of what is called fashion photography. Often it appears to have no connection to fashion at all, and is more of a way to present models in whatever setups the photographer is interested in, which in this case means a hybrid fairy tale/homeless style with some mirror trickery thrown in, and nearly no clothes in SoCal, respectively.

Having said that, I found something to like in both series. In Sandra Freij's shots, I found her imagination to be quite refreshing, in some cases even striking, and I liked several of her shots, in particular the bridge shot (which also has some truly gorgeous rendering, partly due to the S lens and camera used). The colour palette was quite unique, with desaturated colours, and a bias in the pink/purple direction, without crossing over into the garish. The (I presume simulated) flare also added a certain note to the presentation. The setups were often odd, causing me to stop and examine more than I otherwise might have. In general, I quite enjoyed the photos.

Robert Wyatt's photos were less to my taste, lacking somewhat in imagination, and largely being fairly straight-forward depictions of one particular female model's body in various states of undress, apparently on location in some south-western US desert location near the ocean. The model is not unattractive, but the photos are generally not interesting, in my opinion, no thought processes were initiated in my mind, just cold, technical assessment of the results. However, there were still a couple of very nice shots, including an unexpectedly moody shot of birds flying over a cliff by the ocean. The lighting is generally very striking, very characteristic for the location, with an overdose of sun and flare, combined with harsh mid-day sun at an abandoned ruined building, but I regret that the subject matter was not more interesting.

As to the equipment used, I can only say that seeing these shots reaffirms in my mind how desirable a camera and system the Leica S2 and Leica S System are, respectively. The rendering was subtle, sharp and with beautiful lens characteristics, and the colour (in those photos which were not heavily manipulated) were gorgeous. I would love to own such a system, probably with a 30/70/120 set of lenses, sadly it will remain out of my reach for many years, and I will have to make do with my D800.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - The Kennedys - 17 January 2012 [ prev | next ]

One day, out of the blue, for reasons I could not surmise, I received a proper invitation to the opening of "Dame König As Spion" ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy") at Museum The Kennedys. I was very happy to receive it, and being a big John Le Carré fan, having even read the book in question, I was anticipating the exhibition highly. The show was put on by The Kennedys in cooperation with Camera Work, perhaps my favorite Berlin gallery to visit, and since I am on the mailing list for the latter, perhaps that explains the invitation (although I do not get invitations to the amazingly crowded Camera Work vernissages).

The day came, and I went. As usual with these events, it is hard to know how to dress, if you haven't already attended a similar event already, because Berlin's art scene spans the gamut from torn, beaten, painted-on clothes to full dress suit. I chose my cleanest pair of Levi's and a plain black t-shirt, which ended up being somewhat underdressed, but not enough so that anyone looked at me obviously. I should probably get myself a nice, but not extravagant, pair of black pants (not jeans), for these types of occasions. A Black pair of pants with a plain black t-shirt would have been close to the sweet spot for this show. Anyway, ultimately not important, just a small factoid which bounced around inside my head this long.

The show itself was shown within Museum The Kennedys' usual space, with one and a half long walls being cleared or left clear for the purpose. This is not a lot of space, but enough room to hang a few dozen photos without them being close to each other in an unnatural way. Since I haven't been to the museum itself before—I have always meant to, but politics doesn't rate highly on my list of interests, and my time is rather short, as mentioned—I took advantage of the tours offered at the same time. The exhibition is well worth a visit if you have any interest in JFK, and who doesn't!

The photos being placed on exhibition were made by Gary Oldman, who needs no introduction and happens to be a favorite actor of mine, as well as Jack English, the official stills photographer. Oldman—filling the role of George Smiley—had intimate access to the set, and was able to make some photos between acting bits, and Jack English had his hands completely free. The shots are very well executed, and have exactly the right amount of understated class, and also the exact dark and tense mood which one would hope to see in the filming of this classic book.

There were several photos I would love to have prints of, to be honest, but first, I will go and buy the movie and watch that. I might also re-read the book, or one or two select other Le Carré books, such as "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" (which was also filmed to high acclaim), and "A Small Town in Germany".

There are some pages dedicated to the show here and here.